Lithuania seeks EU probe of Gazprom's market 'abuse'

25th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

European Union member Lithuania said on Tuesday that it had asked Brussels to probe Russian gas giant Gazprom for abusing its market clout, saying such muscle-flexing must end.

"The Ministry of Energy of the Republic of Lithuania launched a complaint with the European Commission, requesting it investigate the abuse of dominant position by the Russian gas supplier Gazprom," a government statement said.

It said the goal was to "ensure that terms and conditions for supply of natural gas to Lithuania were determined solely by economic considerations."

To do so, it said, the commission should order Gazprom to apply "transparent, reasonable and non-discriminatory conditions".

The Brussels-based commission is the executive body of the 27-nation EU, and polices its trade and competition rules.

Lithuania and Gazprom have been locked in a war of words over Vilnius's drive to respect EU energy market reform rules by "unbundling" the country's gas system, separating bulk supply from that piped to consumers.

Currently Gazprom is Lithuania's sole supplier and also has a 37.1 percent share in the country's gas distributor Lietuvos Dujos.

Gazprom and another major Lietuvos Dujos stakeholder -- E.ON Ruhrgas International from EU member Germany -- have pressed Lithuania to ask Brussels for an exemption from gas market reform rules, but Vilnius has refused.

As the spat heated up, Gazprom last month reportedly said it would not offer Lithuania the same gas discounts it was prepared to give neighbouring nations.

"Lithuania is being subjected to pressure by the gas monopoly of a third country just because of our determination to implement the fundamental principles of the EU," Lithuania's Energy Minister Arvydas Sekmokas said in a statement Tuesday.

"Gazprom is endeavouring to eliminate the real potential for competition and disrupt the creation of a single European gas market," he claimed.

Lithuania, a nation of 3.2 million, joined the EU in 2004.

It is seeking to cut dependence on supplies from Russia, a legacy of its five decades as a Soviet republic before the communist bloc collapsed in 1991.

© 2011 AFP

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